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A Primer on Gardening: Raised Beds

Recently, we discussed the importance of planning out your garden. If you missed that, go back and check it out now. Today, I want to discuss an additional consideration before you actually start your garden: building raised garden beds.

What Are Raised Beds?
Raised garden beds lift your garden off the ground. How high the bed depends on how you build them. Most often, they stand about eleven inches tall, which is the height of two 2×6 boards (2×6 boards are actually 5.5 inches wide) on end.

The beds themselves are rectangular and sit upon the ground. They are then filled with soil, often with higher quality gardening soil, rather than regular topsoil.

Why Should You Consider Raised Beds?
Raised gardening beds offer a number of advantages over traditional gardening, including:

  • Ease of Access: One of the biggest benefits to using raised beds is that getting to your plants is significantly easier; not only are they higher off the ground, but the defined space allows access to everything with ease
  • Increase Growing Time: If you live in a part of the country with a cold winter, you have a relatively short period of time to garden; raised beds to increase this because the soil inside warms up much fast the soil in the ground
  • Easily Irrigated: Since you’re starting with new soil, adding irrigation to your raised beds is relatively simple (at least if you do so before you add the dirt)
  • Improved Weed Control: Because you’ll be adding new soil on top of your existing topsoil, it’s very simple and effective to add weed barriers
  • Better Soil Health: Raised beds promote better soil by both reducing the amount of compaction and allowing for much better drainage
  • Protects Your Plants: Raised beds are much easier to build fencing around to keep away hungry animals; you can even lay down chicken wire before you fill it with soil to keep burrowing animals at bay

Additional Considerations for Raised Bed Gardening:
While the benefits of raised beds are considerable, there are a few things to consider before you commit:

  • It’s An Investment: To get started with raised beds, you will need to buy the beds (or the materials to build them) as well as the soil to fill it with; traditional gardening is easier in that respect; the beds will also wear out over time and need to be repaired and replaced
  • You Must be Space Conscious: Because the raised bed is a limited space, extra planning is required to ensure that certain plants, like squash, don’t monopolize the space
  • Expansion: Adding to a traditional garden means tilling more soil, but with raised bed gardening, you’ll need to buy or build additional boxes

Despite these relatively minor considerations, raised bed gardening offers a number of key benefits over traditional planting. If you’re new to gardening and don’t mind a small initial investment in time and materials, you should be considering raised beds.